As one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the industry, the one knock on BMW is that it has never had a real entry-level motorcycle. Yes, Beemerphiles may argue the single-cylinder F650 series or the parallel-twin F800 models qualified as “beginner” bikes, but their relatively tall seat heights and rather high prices compared to the rest of the competition in that market put the two small-displacement BMWs off of most novice riders’ shopping lists.
Enter the G 310 R. Designed by BMW engineers in Munich but manufactured by the company’s TVS Motors partner in India, the G 310 R is intended as a “world” model that will be sold in numerous markets around the globe in addition to the USA and Europe. The G 310 R represents the German manufacturer’s first real attempt at an entry-level model, and the company has put a lot of effort into what it hopes will be a bike that will generate big sales worldwide.
Being powered by a 313cc single-cylinder engine, it’d be easy to assume the BMW powerplant is your basic run-of-the-mill design, but in usual BMW style, that’s not the case here. Taking a page from Yamaha’s YZ450F motocrosser, the BMW has its four-valve cylinder head rotated 180 degrees, with the intake ports in the front and the exhaust ports in the rear. The cylinder assembly is also tilted rearward, which allows the engine to be mounted farther forward for more front-end weight bias, in addition to a longer swingarm for numerous benefits. Interestingly, the cylinder head features finger-type cam followers, with the overall design mimicking the S 1000 RR supersport machine—though with a somewhat low 10.6:1 compression ratio and claimed maximum horsepower output of 34 hp at 9,500 rpm, it’s clear the G 310 R isn’t looking for outright speed.
The rest of the G 310 R appears rather conventional, with a steel-tube frame and nonadjustable KYB suspension. Throw a leg over the BMW, and you find that the 30.9-inch seat height will make it much easier for shorter riders to get their feet planted; overall ergos are good, with the seat providing decent comfort (an hour in the saddle was no problem) and the handlebars slanting your torso forward just enough to counter the wind. The smallish LCD instrument panel boasts an abundance of information without being crowded or overly difficult to navigate, and its high contrast allows for easy recognition even in bright daylight.
Hit the big gray starter button, and the BMW quickly rumbles to life…albeit a very whispery and muted rumble. The clutch action is nice and light with good feel, which—coupled with the amiable powerband and short first gear—should help novice riders avoid stalling. Transmission action is fairly crisp, though we noticed some difficulty in finding neutral on our bike. There’s adequate low-end power to get you going, even though the power really begins around 4,000 rpm and continues building steadily until tapering off about 500 rpm short of the 10,000-rpm redline. The single-cylinder engine doesn’t display any unwanted vibration unless you hug the tank with your knees or touch the exhaust with the heel of your right foot; then you’ll notice some vibes, showing how effectively BMW was able to isolate the handlebars, footpegs, and seat.
Where the G 310 R really surprises is in the handling department. Despite the mostly nonadjustable suspension (only spring preload in the rear shock), the spring and damping rates are a good compromise between urban plush and canyon firm, providing a fairly smooth ride during our urban travels while keeping the chassis from pitching about while carving the twisties. Granted, the G 310 R’s engine doesn’t exactly have the power to cause the rear suspension to squat out of corners, but the single 300mm disc and ByBre (Brembo’s Indian subsidiary) four-piston/radial-mount caliper up front provide more than enough braking power to test the fork’s anti-bottom capabilities, even with the ABS. Even the most aggressive braking maneuvers were handled without bottoming or chattering.
Speaking of chattering, the Michelin Pilot Street tires fitted to our G 310 R provided good grip and quick, yet neutral, overall handling within the range of the BMW’s target market. But if and when your skills progress to the point that you really start having fun in the canyons, be prepared for the Michelins to start chattering as a warning before they lose grip.
With a suggested retail price of $4,750 that includes the standard ABS, the BMW G 310 R is situated right among its competition that includes Honda’s CBR300R, Kawasaki’s Ninja 300 ABS, KTM’s 390 Duke, and Yamaha’s R3. Build quality is typical BMW (read: excellent), the engine basically sips fuel (don’t worry about the smallish 2.9-gallon tank), and there’s always the benefit of BMW’s superb dealer support. Looks like the choices for entry-level riders in the USA are going to be even better for 2017.
|2017 BMW G 310 R Specifications|
|Type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC single|
|Bore x stroke||80.0 x 62.1mm|
|Induction||BMS-E2 EFI, 42mm throttle body, single injector|
|Front tire||110/70R-17 Michelin Pilot Street|
|Rear tire||150/60R-17 Michelin Pilot Street|
|Rake/trail||25.1º/4.0 in. (102mm)|
|Wheelbase||54.0 in. (1374mm)|
|Seat height||30.9 in. (785mm)|
|Fuel capacity||2.9 gal. (11L)|
|Claimed wet weight||349 lb. (159kg)|